In 1987 he joined BMW as head of maintenance planning. From 1991 to 1994 he was Director of the Body in White Production Division. From 1994 to 1997 Reithofer then became Technical Director of BMW South Africa. From 1997 to 2000, Reithofer was President BMW Manufacturing Corporation (USA), based in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In March 2000 he returned to Munich to join the BMW Board of Management, responsible for production. In 2002, Reithofer and Development Chief Burkhard Goeschel halved the standard BMW time it took to reach full production of the new generation E90 3 Series, from six months to three. On 1 September 2006 he succeeded Helmut Panke as Chairman of the Board and CEO of BMW.